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Best Walk Behind Brush Cutter for 2021

Matt By Matt July 16, 2021

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heavy duty brush hog

A brush cutter, also known as a brush hog or rough cut mower, is the most effective way to remove tall grass, dense weeds, and overgrowth from your property. A walk-behind brush cutter is designed to cut saplings up to several inches in diameter and grass up to eight feet tall. Some models have wide cutting decks, articulating decks that pivot with the terrain, and hydrostatic transmission for variable speed.

To create this article, we spent hours researching product data and user reviews for different walk behind brush cutters. After reviewing the data, we've compiled a list of our top picks.

Tip: If you need help, then we recommend skipping ahead to our buying guide which lists important things to consider when purchasing a walk behind brush cutter.

Best Walk Behind Brush Cutters: Our Top Picks

Swisher Rough Cut Mower (WRC11524BS)Swisher Rough Cut Mower (WRC11524BS)Best ValueCutting Capacity: 6' grass and 1.5" wide saplingsCutting Width: 24 inch wide deckTransmission: 4-speed manual transmissionVIEW LATEST PRICERead Our Analysis
Brush Beast (36BBM20R)Brush Beast (36BBM20R)Best Heavy DutyCutting Capacity: 6' grass and 4.0" wide saplingsCutting Width: 36 inch wide deckTransmission: Hydrostatic transmissionVIEW LATEST PRICERead Our Analysis
Swisher Rough Cut Pro (WRC10224H)Swisher Rough Cut Pro (WRC10224H)Commercial RatedCutting Capacity: 6' grass and 1.5" wide saplingsCutting Width: 24 inch wide deckTransmission: 4-speed manual transmissionVIEW LATEST PRICERead Our Analysis
Southland Field Trimmer (SWFT15022)Southland Field Trimmer (SWFT15022)Best for Grass & WeedsCutting Capacity: 6' grass and 0.5" brush (varies)Cutting Width: 22 inch wide deckTransmission: Manual transmissionVIEW LATEST PRICERead Our Analysis
Swisher Rough Cut Trail Mower (RC14544CPKA)Swisher Rough Cut Trail Mower (RC14544CPKA)Best Tow-BehindCutting Capacity: 6' grass and 3.0" wide saplingsCutting Width: 44 inch wide deckTransmission: Tow-behindVIEW LATEST PRICERead Our Analysis

More Details on Our Top Picks

  1. Swisher Rough Cut Mower (WRC11524BS)

    Swisher Rough Cut Mower (WRC11524BS)

    Best Value

    Shop Now at Amazon

    The Swisher Rough Cut Mower (WRC11524BS) is a good walk-behind brush cutter at a great price. It has an 11.5 HP (344cc) Briggs & Stratton engine and a fixed hardened steel blade that can cut up to 1.5" diameter brush. The machine also has large pneumatic chevron tread tires and easily accessible gear shifts located on the handlebars.

    What we like best about the Swisher WRC11524BS is that, despite its low price, it includes high-end features like adjustable handlebars and cutting height adjustments. These features are usually found only on higher-priced models. Finally, the brush hog is made in the United States of America from global components. Overall, we think this is best for a couple of acres of light to medium brush.

    • Cutting Capacity: 6' grass and 1.5" wide saplings
    • Cutting Width: 24 inch wide deck
    • Transmission: 4-speed manual transmission
    • Weight: 246 pounds
    • Engine: 344cc Briggs & Stratton engine
    • Deck: Fixed Deck
    • Adjustable Cutting Height: Yes
    • Adjustable Handlebars: Yes
  2. Brush Beast (36BBM20R)

    Brush Beast (36BBM20R)

    Best Heavy Duty

    Shop Now at Home Depot

    The Brush Beast is a beast of a machine at an unbelievable price. It is rated for commercial use and can handle almost any job, including clearing heavy brush and cutting tree trunks up to 4.0" in diameter. The Brush Beast is equipped with dual breakaway blades and a 50-pound flywheel housed in a heavy-duty 7-gauge steel welded deck.

    The Brush Beast is powered by a 20 HP Briggs and Stratton v-twin engine that provides 656cc of cutting power, far exceeding that of other brush cutter models. The increased power allows you to cut an acre of tall grass and weeds in under 30 minutes.

    While the specs are out of this world, there is one thing you should know about this machine. The Brush Beast is made by GXI Outdoor Power, which doesn't have a phone number on their website at the time of this review. In addition, some customers have reported having to wait a while for service to be repaired. However, with several happy customers, the Brush Beast remains a strong contender for the best walk-behind brush cutter for the money.

    • Cutting Capacity: 6' grass and 4.0" wide saplings
    • Cutting Width: 36 inch wide deck
    • Transmission: Hydrostatic transmission
    • Weight: 656 pounds
    • Engine: Briggs and Stratton 656cc Engine
    • Deck: Fixed Deck
    • Optional Accessories: Finish mower conversion kit available
    • Cutting Speed: Cuts up to 2 acres per hour
  3. Swisher Rough Cut Pro (WRC10224H)

    Swisher Rough Cut Pro (WRC10224H)

    Commercial Rated

    Shop Now at Amazon

    The Swisher Rough Cut Pro (WRC10224H) is an upgrade of the WRC11524BS and rated for commercial use. It has many of the same features as its smaller brother (the WRC11524BS), but the engine and cutting blade have been upgraded. The engine is a commercial-grade Honda GXV 10.2HP (389cc) engine designed for years of use and reliability. The Swisher Pro's cutting blade is a G6 Gator commercial blade, which is also a significant upgrade.

    The remaining features of this model are identical to those of the WRC11524BS, including easily accessible gear shifts, large pneumatic tires, adjustable height handlebars, and cutting height adjustments. Overall, this is an excellent brush hog for medium to heavy-duty brush cutting multiple times per season.

    • Cutting Capacity: 6' grass and 1.5" wide saplings
    • Cutting Width: 24 inch wide deck
    • Transmission: 4-speed manual transmission
    • Weight: 256 pounds
    • Engine: 389cc Honda GXV Engine
    • Deck: Fixed Deck
    • Adjustable Cutting Height: Yes
    • Adjustable Height Handlebars: Yes
  4. Southland Field Trimmer (SWFT15022)

    Southland Field Trimmer (SWFT15022)

    Best for Grass & Weeds

    Shop Now at Amazon

    For many people, the Southland Field Trimmer (SWFT15022) is the ideal walk behind brush cutter and a great middle-of-the-road option. It's perfect for dealing with tall grass and weeds that a lawnmower can't handle. But it's a fraction of the price of a full-fledged brush hog designed for saplings and larger diameter trees.

    Instead of a fixed blade, this field trimmer has four 0.155" trimmer lines, which are more than enough to cut through even the toughest grasses and weeds with its 150cc engine. You can even use the line trimmer around your trees instead of a laborious weed-eater. If you only need to deal with an acre of brush once or twice a year and want to keep your grass trimmed around your trees and landscaping, we think this is a great option.

    • Cutting Capacity: 6' grass and 0.5" brush (varies)
    • Cutting Width: 22 inch wide deck
    • Transmission: Manual transmission
    • Weight: 50 pounds
    • Engine: 150cc OHV Engine
    • Deck: Fixed Deck
    • Cutting Method: Quad 0.155" line trimmer head
    • Additional Feature: Easy and convenient storage
  5. Swisher Rough Cut Trail Mower (RC14544CPKA)

    Swisher Rough Cut Trail Mower (RC14544CPKA)

    Best Tow-Behind

    Shop Now at Amazon

    Swisher's rough cut trail mower (RC14544CPKA) is a commercial-grade tow-behind brush cutter made in the United States. If you have more than 5 acres to cut, a tow-behind cutter is a good option because it is faster and easier on your body.

    This model has a 14.5 HP (603cc) Kawasaki v-twin engine, extra-wide 44-inch cutting deck, heavy-duty stump jumper, and break away cutting blades The brush cutter easily attaches to an ATV or garden tractor using a 2" ball, and the tow-bar offset can be adjusted to 5 different positions.

    Overall, this is an excellent brush cutter and the best option if you have a way to pull it. It's also made in the United States, and its manufacturer, Swisher, has been in business since 1945.

    • Cutting Capacity: 6' grass and 3.0" wide saplings
    • Cutting Width: 44 inch wide deck
    • Transmission: Tow-behind
    • Weight: 368 pounds
    • Engine: Kawasaki 603cc Commercial Grade Engine
    • Deck: Stump Jumper
    • Construction: Made in the USA
    • Cutting Speed: Cuts up to 3 acres per hour

Walk Behind Brush Cutter Buying Guide

A walk-behind brush cutter is a significant investment, so you should thoroughly research all of your options before deciding on the best machine for your needs. In this buying guide, we'll go over some of the most important things to think about before committing to a particular model.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Walk-Behind Brush Cutter:

  • Cutting Capacity
  • Cutting Height
  • Cutting Deck Width
  • Transmission
  • Pivoting Deck
  • PTO Conversion Kit
  • Amount of Usage
  • Durability
  • Ease of Turning
  • Adjustable Height Handlebars
  • Ease of Maintenance
  • Additional Considerations

As you review through each of these factors, you might want to make some notes about what matters most for your needs and prioritize the list based on importance.

Cutting Capacity

When deciding which brush cutter to buy, cutting capacity is one of the most important factors to consider. The diameter of a sapling that a brush hog can cut through is determined by the cutting capacity.

Common Cutting Capacities for Brush Cutters:

  • 1.5 inches in diameter
  • 2.0 inches in diameter
  • 3.0 inches in diameter
  • 4.0 inches in diameter

As with anything, the price rises as the cutting capacity rises. If the price does not increase, the manufacturer may be cutting corners elsewhere, such as using thinner gauge steel for the housing or a motor from an unknown brand.

Walk Behind Brush Cutter Cutting Capacity Comparison:
ModelCutting Capacity
Brush Beast 36BBM20R6' grass and 4.0" wide saplings
Swisher RC14544CPKA6' grass and 3.0" wide saplings
Swisher WRC10224H6' grass and 1.5" wide saplings
Swisher WRC11524BS6' grass and 1.5" wide saplings
Southland SWFT150226' grass and 0.5" brush (varies)

As a general rule, choose a cutting capacity based on your typical needs. If the majority of the material you plan on cutting is no larger than 2" in diameter, we recommend a brush hog with a 2" capacity. You might be able to get some 3" diameter material through on occasion, but for larger tree trunks and brush, you're better off using another method. A cordless reciprocating saw is a good alternative for larger items.

Cutting Height

The height of grass and weeds that a brush hog can cut through when clearing land is the second most important buying consideration.

In general, most brush cutters can handle grass up to 4 feet tall and weeds up to 6 feet tall. Higher-tier machines can handle 6' tall grass and 8' tall weeds as you progress through the models.

Is there any point in buying a machine that can handle grass up to 6 feet tall if you'll never have grass taller than 4 feet? Yes, because it won't bog down in the tall grass or weeds as easily. The price difference between 4' and 6' models is negligible, which is another reason to go with the higher-end machine.

Cutting Deck Width

When purchasing a walk-behind brush cutter, the cutting deck width is the third most important factor to consider. The brush cutter's cutting deck width determines how wide a path it can cut at one time. As you might expect, the wider the path, the faster you'll be able to clear an acre of land.

Common Walk-Behind Brush Cutter Deck Widths:

  • 26-inch deck
  • 30-inch deck
  • 34-inch deck
  • 36-inch deck
Walk Behind Brush Cutter Cutting Width Comparison:
ModelCutting Width
Swisher RC14544CPKA44 inches
Brush Beast 36BBM20R36 inches
Swisher WRC10224H24 inches
Swisher WRC11524BS24 inches
Southland SWFT1502222 inches

It's difficult to say how long it would take a brush cutter with a specific deck width to cut an acre. The answer is contingent on a number of factors, including whether the land is covered in dense brush or simply tall grass. Another factor is the motor's horsepower or displacement, which is determined by the brush hog itself.

According to our experience, clearing an acre of tall grass with a brush hog with a 26" wide deck takes about an hour, while clearing an acre with a 36" wide deck takes half the time, or about 30 minutes.

Transmission

The next thing to think about when buying a brush cutter is whether you want to spend a little more money for a model with a hydrostatic transmission rather than a manual transmission.

A brush cutter with a manual transmission requires a little more physical effort because you must manually shift gears using a lever on the machine. Usually, there are four positions on the lever: high, low, neutral, and reverse.

Buying a model with a hydrostatic transmission is an alternative to manually shifting gears. You won't have to worry about shifting gears with these models, and controlling the brush cutter will be much easier. In addition, a hydrostatic transmission allows for infinite speed variation. You can control the speed exactly how you want it and tweak it on the fly, rather than being locked into a fast or low speed.

Walk Behind Brush Cutter Transmission Comparison:
ModelTransmission
Brush Beast 36BBM20RHydrostatic transmission
Swisher RC14544CPKATow-behind
Swisher WRC11524BS4-speed manual transmission
Southland SWFT15022Manual transmission
Swisher WRC10224H4-speed manual transmission

Pivoting Deck

A pivoting deck is another feature to think about when buying a walk-behind brush hog. When compared to a model with a fixed deck, a pivoting deck has two significant advantages.

The first benefit is that using a brush hog will require significantly less effort on your part. The entire machine, including the handlebars, tilts left or right depending on the terrain in a fixed-deck model. Unfortunately, this side-to-side motion takes a toll on your body quickly. In a model with a pivoting deck, however, the deck absorbs much of the side-to-side movement and reduces movement in the handlebars, making your job much easier.

A pivoting deck's second advantage is that it provides a much better cut. The deck will follow the landscape as the brush hog moves across uneven terrain, reducing the risk of scalping the ground.

Walk Behind Brush Cutter Deck Comparison:
ModelDeck
Brush Beast 36BBM20RFixed Deck
Swisher RC14544CPKAStump Jumper
Swisher WRC11524BSFixed Deck
Southland SWFT15022Fixed Deck
Swisher WRC10224HFixed Deck

PTO Conversion Kit

The availability of a PTO conversion kit on some brush cutters is a useful feature. With a PTO conversion kit, you can remove the brush cutter's deck and attach another machine like a snowblower, wood chipper, lawnmower, or snow blade. The attachment is unique in that it attaches to the PTO shaft and uses the brush cutter's motor and other components.

Because the attachments do not include a motor or electrical components, the main advantage of a PTO conversion kit is that it may save you money. The attachments work with the motor you already have!

Now before you jump on the PTO conversion kit bandwagon, there are a few drawbacks that you should consider.

PTO Conversion Kit Drawbacks:

  • Engine failure could mean all your attachments are now worthless;
  • Connection failure between the PTO and attachment is possible;
  • Backward compatibility may be nonexistent;
  • Increased price for the base unit with the motor.

Amount of Usage

The number of hours you plan to use a brush hog each year is the next factor to consider when purchasing one. A brush hog can be a significant investment, costing several thousand dollars in some cases. Is the model you selected worth the money for the amount of time you intend to use it?

If you only need to clear a field once, it's probably best to rent a brush hog or hire someone to do it for you. However, if you have a large property or a frequent brush problem, a brush hog may be more cost-effective in the long run.

Durability

When purchasing a brush hog, durability is also a major consideration because it will be subjected to a lot of abuse. It's critical to select a model that is built to last and can withstand the test of time.

Factors that Influence Durability:

  • Brush cutter brand
  • Thickness of the steel deck
  • Blade size and thickness
  • Spindle size and thickness
  • Sealant filled tires
  • Length of warranty

We don't believe that any of these factors should be used to make or break your decision to purchase a specific model. However, you should think about each factor when deciding which brush cutter is best for you.

Recommended Brush Cutter Engine Brands:

  • Honda
  • Subaru
  • Kohler
  • Briggs & Stratton
  • Kawasaki

Ease of Turning

The ability to turn on a small radius is a feature that is frequently overlooked when purchasing a brush cutter. Most walk-behind models weigh over 300 pounds, making turning difficult.

Walk Behind Brush Cutter Weight Comparison:
ModelWeight
Southland SWFT1502250 lbs
Swisher WRC11524BS246 lbs
Swisher WRC10224H256 lbs
Swisher RC14544CPKA368 lbs
Brush Beast 36BBM20R656 lbs

Power steering is a feature on some models that uses a brake lever to lock one of the back wheels, allowing for an easy pivot around that locked wheel. If the area you plan to mow has a lot of twists and turns, a power steering (brake locking) feature is very useful. However, because it isn't standard on most machines, it can severely limit your brush hog options. If the area you plan to cut consists of a wide-open field with many straight paths, this feature is less of a concern.

Adjustable Height Handlebars

Adjustable handlebars are one of the final features to consider when purchasing a brush hog. The ability to fine-tune the height of the handlebars allows you to work longer and harder.

Most people are unaware that using a brush hog requires a great deal of bending over. When you come across thicker brush, the machine may not be able to simply "push" the brush down and mow over it. So a common trick is to push the handlebars down, tilting the front of the machine up in the air while the machine continues to move forward. This allows you to attack the brush at a 45-degree angle, but it bends your back and can cause a lot of pain in a matter of hours.

Getting a machine with adjustable handlebars is a simple way to alleviate some of this back pain. The ability to raise the handlebars from the start can help reduce back pain and strain while working.

Ease of Maintenance

One of the last things you should do before purchasing a brush hog is read the manual for a model that appears promising. You can usually find the manuals online, where you can see how simple the maintenance is and what is required.

Common Brush Hog Maintenance Considerations:

  • Blade sharpening or replacement
  • Oil change
  • Oil filter replacement
  • Belt replacement
  • Battery replacement
  • Tire replacement
  • Grease and lubrication

Additional Buying Considerations

We have a few additional things that, based on our experience, you should consider before buying a brush hog:

  • Availability of replacement blades online
  • Availability of replacement belts online
  • A low oil shutoff feature
  • Online reviews

FAQs on Heavy Duty Brush Hogs

In addition to our brush hog buying guide, we'd like to address some of the most frequently asked questions about these machines. If you have a question that we haven't addressed, please contact us so that we can address it and add it to this article.

Heavy Duty Brush Hog Categories

Before you choose a specific type of brush hog, we'd like to give you a high-level overview of the various categories. Purchasing a brush hog is a significant investment, so it is essential to understand the differences between the various categories.

Categories:

  • Walk-Behind Brush Hogs
  • Tow-Behind Brush Hogs
  • PTO 3-Point Hitch Brush Hogs
  • Forestry Mulchers

Walk-Behind Brush Hog

The first type, a walk-behind brush hog, has already been discussed in this article. A walk-behind brush hog is ideal for controlling brush in a yard as well as clearing several acres. Most of these models have a cutting deck that is around 26" or 34" wide.

This type of machine has a practical limit of about 5 acres. It could take several days if you have more than 5 acres of land to clear and it isn't just tall grass. It's not because the machine can't handle it; it's because your body can't.

In comparison to the other categories, a walk-behind brush hog really shines in terms of its small size and maneuverability. It's an excellent addition to a homeowner's toolkit.

Tow-Behind Brush Hog

The second type, a tow-behind brush hog, has a motor that powers the blades while the machine is pulled by a garden tractor, gator, or ATV. The cutting deck on the majority of these models is approximately 44" wide.

The main advantage of this category is that a pull-behind brush hog can clear several acres of land quickly and easily. When compared to a walk-behind model, the only disadvantage is maneuverability in tight spaces.

PTO 3-Point Hitch Brush Hog

The third category is a PTO driven 3-point hitch brush hog, which is attached to a tractor's 3-point hitch and powered by the tractor's power take-off (PTO).

The main reason someone would want a PTO brush hog is if they have a large number of acres to cut. The cutting deck in these models ranges from 44" to 180", which is more than 15 feet wide!

Another reason to choose a PTO brush hog is that it can be used for a lifetime and has a high resale value. Because your tractor provides the power, the brush hog's only moving parts are its gearbox and blades. There isn't much that can break on the machine if it's kept greased and oiled.

Forestry Mulcher

A forestry mulcher is the fourth and final type of brush hog. So… okay, so we lied a little. A forestry mulcher isn't technically a brush hog, but you might not be aware of it if we didn't include it on this list.

What is the significance of knowing about a forestry mulcher? What if you have a few acres of land with a lot of trees and brush with diameters ranging from 5" to 48"? So, what are your options? A brush hog won't cut it, so that's when you need a forestry mulcher.

A forestry mulcher is typically designed as a skid-steer attachment and has a large drum with thick metal teeth. The teeth of the drum grind through almost any organic material as it rotates, including trees up to four feet in diameter!

The attachment alone, not including the skid steer, can easily cost upwards of $25,000, putting it out of reach for the average homeowner. However, if you have a large area to clear of thick brush, this is an important rental consideration. The trick is to clear the land with a forestry mulcher and then maintain it with a brush hog.

Who Makes the Best Rotary Cutter Brush Hog?

The most frequently asked question is, "Who makes the best rotary cutter brush hog?" We wish we could recommend a specific brand and tell you to only buy from that company. However, the answer is really dependent on a number of factors, including your specific requirements.

Factors:

  • History of the manufacturer
  • Price
  • Intended use for the machine
  • Engine brand
  • Materials used to construct the brush hog
  • Any cut corners in the design or construction
  • History of positive or negative reviews
  • Customer support

How Do You Sharpen a Brush Hog Blade?

The key to sharpening a brush hog blade is to remember that, depending on the terrain, you may need a dull blade. A sharp blade could get stuck or create a spike that could puncture a tire if you're cutting a lot of saplings and thick brush. If the majority of what you're cutting is tall grass and weeds, on the other hand, a sharp edge may result in a better cut and less stress on the motor.

Best Way to Sharpen a Brush Hog Blade:

  1. Remove the blades using a wrench.
  2. Sharpen the blades using a fine grit sanding tool such as a belt sander, angle grinder, or disc sander.
  3. Remove the burr from the backside of each blade.
  4. Balance the blades.
  5. Install the blades using a wrench.
  6. Tighten the blades to the appropriate torque using a torque wrench.

How Much is it to Rent a Brush Hog?

Because a brush hog is an expensive purchase, you may want to rent one for a few days instead of purchasing one outright. You could save a lot of money because renting a brush hog costs $75 for four hours, $100 for a day, and $400 for a week. In this article, we'll look at whether it's better to rent or buy a home.

In general, any brush you cut down will most likely return the following season, necessitating an additional rental. Also, if you're cutting grass or weeds, that's a couple of rentals per season.

Another factor to consider when renting a brush hog is the physical toll it takes on your body. An 8-hour rental may sound simple, but it is extremely taxing on your body, especially if you do not have flat terrain and are cutting saplings and thick brush.

So, what are you going to do? If you're on the fence, we recommend going with the day rental. You won't be out more than $100, and you'll be able to get a sense of what it's like to use a brush hog on your property. You may discover that renting is the best option for your requirements.

How Much Does Brush Cutting Cost?

If you don't want to buy a brush cutter or spend the time and effort renting one, you can usually hire someone local to do the job. Brush cutting tall grass and light overgrowth will cost between $100 and $150 per hour. This price does not include a fee to walk your property and look for hidden obstacles, such as large rocks or debris that could damage the brush cutter.

How Much Does it Cost to Clear a Wooded Lot?

The cost of clearing a wooded lot is determined by several factors, including the diameter of the trees on the lot. If the job does not require cutting trees larger than four feet in diameter, a forestry mulcher should suffice. Depending on the density and thickness of the trees, the cost per hour could range between $150 and $200 and the process could take up to 3 hours per acre.

About the Author
Matt
Matt is an engineer and outdoor enthusiast. He believes that one of the greatest pleasures in life is being outside and working hard. In his spare time, he enjoys working on new projects and home improvement.
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